A federal appeals court in Georgia is the latest to rule against the so-called “individual mandate” in President Barack Obama’s health care law.
On Friday in a 2–1 ruling, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the individual mandate as an unconstitutional exercise of congressional power, siding with 26 states that had sued to block the law.
In a joint opinion, Justices Joel Dubina and Frank Hull “concluded that the individual mandate exceeded congressional authority under Article I of the Constitution because it was not enacted pursuant to Congress’s tax power and it exceeded Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause.”
The appeals court partially affirmed a lower court ruling which found Obama’s heath care law unconstitutional, but ruled the individual mandate could be severed from the rest of the law. The decision did not question the constitutionality of the rest of the law.
The court found that levying taxes to support the individual mandate was not within Congress’s power, as prescribed under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, because it was actually a penalty, not a tax.
“The very nature of congressional findings about the individual mandate further amplifies that Congress designed and intended to design a penalty for the failure to comply and not a tax,” the court wrote.
“After careful review of the statute, we conclude that the individual mandate is a civil regulatory penalty and not a tax,” the decision continues. “As a regulatory penalty, the individual mandate must therefore find justification in a different enumerated power … The individual mandate as written cannot be supported by the tax power.”
The decision set off celebrations among opponents of the health care law. (RELATED: AARP latest to receive Obamacare break)
“Today we have prevailed in preventing Congress from infringing on the individual liberty protected by the U.S. Constitution,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. “The ruling by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upholds our position that the federal health care law exceeds Congress’ power.”
“We were hopeful that the Court would take the extra step and find, not only, that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, but that it cannot be severed from the law,” said Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “Still, today’s ruling is a true victory for all Americans because it respects the constitutional limits of Congress’ power over all Americans.”
It is generally expected that the Supreme Court will ultimately decide the constitutionality of Obama’s health care law.